What’s your emergency plan for jury trials?

In every football game, coaches make decisions about whether to take a timeout, to accept a penalty, or to go for it on 4th down.  These decisions must often be made in a split-second, and can affect the entire outcome of the game.  Anyone who’s watched football has probably heard the old mantra, "Every second you leave on the clock unnecessarily may be the one your opponent uses to beat you."

That’s why football coaches spend so much time studying clock management techniques.  They think their way through every timing possible scenario before they take the field, because they know that they’ll eventually run into a situation where they need to make a split second decision.

How do they do it?  They script out their decisions in the calm of their office, before they run into the problem on the field. They know that their minds don’t work their best when dealing with distractions, time pressure, and screaming fans, so they figure out what the best possible response should be beforehand, and then implement it on the field.  

These coaches prepare charts to tell them when to kick and when to go for the 2 point conversion. They have charts to help them decide whether or not to stop the game clock.  They have charts to tell them whether or not to accept penalties.

Every conceivable problem gets mapped out before they take the field, so that they can make the best decision when it counts.

But what about you and your trial practice preparation?  Do you have a plan in place for dealing with emergencies?

Think about all of the things that could possibly go wrong in your next trial. Here are some examples:

  • Your star witness is late…
  • Your start witness doesn’t show up…
  • Your exhibit is excluded…
  • The judge reverses his pre-trial ruling and admits your opponent’s exhibit into evidence…
  • The judge reverses his pre-trial ruling and doesn’t admit your exhibit into evidence…
  • Your objection is overruled…
  • Your opponent’s objection is sustained…

Do you have responses prepared for these scenarios?  If not, you need to invest some time burning the midnight oil and crafting a solution to each of those potential problems.

You’re not going to win jury trials because you’re the most attractive lawyer in the courthouse (even though you are, gorgeous!) or because you’re the smartest person in the courtroom (even though you are, Einstein!) Nope, you’ll win jury trials because you’re the most prepared lawyer in the courtroom, and you’ve thought of responses to every possible problem.

Being a trial lawyer is kind of like being a top notch surgeon performing an appendectomy.   Removing the appendix is easy.  Heck, I could probably teach you how to do it in a 30 minute seminar.  But surgeons don’t get paid the big bucks because they know how to remove the appendix — they get paid the big bucks because they know how to respond to the thousand different complications that can arise while you’re removing it.

That’s why you get paid the big bucks.  Trying cases is pretty easy. A high school student could probably do it if everything went according to plan. But things never go according to plan, and that’s why you get paid the big bucks.  Script out your responses to all of the different scenarios before trial begins, and you’ll be the lawyer representing the prevailing party, rather than the lawyer apologizing to your client.

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